Villages, special project areas and plantations such as tea, coffee, bananas, etc. are allowed as a grouping
to be certified where there is an umbrella company or management group which undertakes to maintain certification,
this is commonly referred to as a Cooperative (Co-op). The Group shall be formed around one main product
(e.g. coffee, herbs) to be certified as a group and be constituted of small land holders only. The product
can only be sold through the main entity which is generally referred to as the Co-op. Large farming units,
processing units and traders require individual certification and shall not be certified as part of the group
while group members shall be in geographic proximity and only sell through one entity.
Produce must be sold under the group name – as part of a coordinated marketing strategy (i.e. individual
farmers in the scheme may not sell certified product independently) and there shall be an Internal Control
System (ICS) in operation.
The Internal Control System is a critical part of developing the Grower Group. The operator shall be responsible
for maintaining the ICS, which shall include in-house education/extension (regarding Standards and organic
production methods), internal auditing and corrective actions relating to the group. This shall include the
allocation of resources and personnel to enact and maintain this. The operator shall train internal auditors to
conduct periodic (at a minimum, annually) internal audits on all the members of the group. Such audit results
and auditing records shall be made available to auditors at the time of the audit.
The Land Management form must be completed when applying for certification and also annually. This form provides
details of all individual growers. The number of individual growers that will be inspected by an ACO auditor
will depend on the risk category of the operation. For normal risk situation the number inspected shall not
be lower than the square root of the number of members of the group. Within the set selected, the highest
risk members shall be identified and inspected with the remaining sample, at least 25% to be selected on
a random selection basis for inspection. Based on the land management form, farmers will be inspected if
they have not been audited before by ACO, any new growers, any growers that have used any prohibited
input in the past or that are located near conventional farms (refer to maps).
Group Internal Control Systems Information Sheet
More information can be found on chapter 7.8 of the
Australian Certified Organic Standard.